Chilean bathing

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Bathing is a family story. From my youngest age, I have learned to swim in the pool of the municipality. With the experiences, I learned how to get used to this new element. The sea became enjoyable: the beginnings of sliding in the foam of Plouharnel (seaside village in Brittany) ; sailing at the entry of the Granville port and the first dives in front of the ramparts of Saint-Malo.

At the beginning of the nice Spring days, the tradition of bathing highlights the most courageous who are diving in the water refreshed by the previous winter. Bathing is also the opportunity to share some time with the other swimmers who came to cool off ; plus this is also a unique moment to keep yourself to yourself and enjoy the harmony created by this powerful element. 

This travel around the world offers unforgettable bathing in amazing spots. Or simply, allows us to take a refreshing dip which after a day on the road are very appreciable! 

Cogoti Lake

After leaving the Ruta 5 nearby La Serena city and rode tens of kilometres on hills between vines, we set up the camp at the edge of the Cogoti lake. At the end of the afternoon, the sun was still high in the sky and the air temperature still warm. After a day on the road with the heat, there was nothing better than bathing in the lake.  The water is not very clear but its temperature seduced us. We put our swimsuits to go for a swim. Everyone enjoyed the water differently. Floating on the back in the sunshine to enjoy the sunshine on the face, holding the breath for a challenge, or a few lengths to stretch the muscles.

After going out, we rinsed with our solar shower before to cook with our camping stove. At the menu tonight: pasta of course! After spending a night in the tent, I treated myself with a morning swim before to go back on the road towards Salamanca. 

Cochrane Lake

We spent the day on tracks and did 200 kilometres between the villages of Villa O’Higgins, located at the South of the Carratera Austral, and Cochrane. The itinerary of the day has requested a lot of efforts to our engines. Once arrived at our wild camping spot, we did some maintenance on the motorbikes before to enjoy diving in the transparent waters of the Cochrane lake. Coming from the Oro glacier, the water is one of the most transparent waters in the world.

The freshness of the water and the cool breeze will request more efforts than usually. But I cannot resist when the “Fairy of the Lake” is calling me. The fairy who is attracting me like a magnet, with her power, in the depths of the lake.

Not a wave in sight, “the water is like oil”. Ten minutes ago, the sun went on the other side of the mountains, so with a navy blue sky, I went in front of the wooden pontoon. I was moving forward, solemnly, to reach its tip while looking the middle of the lake. The snow covering the summits of the surrounded mountains reinforced their sharp profiles and gave the illusion of a fierce jaw protecting this place.

With humility, I needed to go down to get wet and adapt myself to the cold temperature of the water. The moment came for me to go two steps backwards before to take an impulsion and enjoy this moment where the body goes through the surface of the water. The two movements of breaststroke following the impact drew out the pleasure. Then, it was time to go back to the pontoon to dive a second time and a third time. But the temperature of the water did not allow me to enjoy longer this peaceful moment, in the middle of a privileged spot. I went out of the water, dried myself energetically to warm up and met my friends for diner. 

Little reminder about the previous bathing


* Playa Blanca and the Caribbean Sea at sunrise (cf – article “Carthagena – 1 week – 2 metres above sea level”)
* The waterfall of Misiguey, a natural shower (cf – article “Night-Spots in Colombia”)


* Cancas and its sandy beach (cf – article “Peruvian encounters”)
* The coolness of Laguna Parón (cf – article “From Cancas to Laguna Parón – 10 days – 23 metres above sea level”)


* From a small boat in the middle of the Titicaca lake (cf – article “Expériences Boliviennes”)

Chilean encounters

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Alex the intrepid

With a beautiful sunshine and an oppressive heat, we used the path leading us to San Augustin to reach a bit further the “hobbit” house of Alexander. By hearing the Ural’s engines, he came to escorte us for the last kilometre with his Ural “retro solo”. We crossed a ford, the last difficulty of our journey, before to enter in his property.

Alex is born in Switzerland and lives in Chile for many years. He built his house by following plans of the “Eco-dome” houses from the Iranian-born architect Nader Khalili. Next to his house, three containers which are actually his workshop, warehouse and garage.

It was 2pm when we crossed the portal of his property. We spent the rest of the day chatting about the travel, the Ural sidecars and his hectic life ; by going from a container to another one before to seat down with a delicatessen board.

Here, the life is simple and organised around the sun and the elements of nature. The waking up is made with the birds singing, the electricity is provided by the solar panels, the water is coming from the river running a few metres further away. 

We followed his usual daily life during these four days spent with him. No long speeches or big preoccupations, but more spontaneity and actions. As such, we celebrated New Year’s Eve with his neighbours, then we did some mechanics on the 1st of January to go to the moto club of Valpraiso the following day as he invited us. When it was time to say goodbye at this nice port city, our roads split. He went back to San Augustin, while we were heading towards Patagonia.

Rémy & Morgan, the Frenchiesonwheels

It was around 11:30pm when we left the Valpraiso moto club to go back to the hostel by sidecars. After we parked them in the little courtyard of the Villa Kunterbunt, thinking we will go back to our room, Rémy and Morgan, the two French guys from “Frenchiesonwheels” offered us a can of Escudo beer to share. With the stories and journeys of everyone, plus the tens of jokes, the time was going as fast as the stock of beers got lower. Very tired but with our mind full of dreams, we went to bed.

With a lot of enthusiasm we met them again the following evening ; after exploring Valparaiso while they were doing the maintenance of their DR, old motorbikes with an unusual look which brought them from France to Sidney before to reach Valparaiso, their point of departure for discovering South of America.

For our last evening in “Valpo”, we shared together a delicious “parilla” (Chilean barbecue) prepared by Martina’s son, our host, served with Escudo beer and Chilean wines.

Cristian & his friends from the Chillán moto club 

After a big day on the monotonous highway of Ruta 5, we met Cristian at a rest area, a few kilometres away from Chillán. He follows our adventures on the social media. When we saw that we will cross his city, he sent us a message to meet us.

We arranged this meeting at the Petrobras petrol station, before Chillán. A few minutes after our arrival, we have been surprised when we saw a small yellow BMW side-car arriving. Cristian was accompanied by two of his friends from the moto club of the city.

The presentations done, they escorted us up to the town center where they invited us to discover a local speciality: the “mote com huesillo”. A drink with as much to drink as to eat. This includes peach, syrup and wheat. We continued by visiting the cathedral of the city with a modern and unusual egg-shape architecture. This reminds the architecture of the Brasilia city.

After bringing us back to the end of the city, our ways split. We went back on the road towards South while they were preparing a trekking for the following day.

Adrian & his bicycle in Patagonia

Upon our arrival in Chaitén, the rain did not stop. We stopped our engines in front of the Tierra Vida campsite, located in the middle of the village. The owners offers the possibility to the travellers of setting up a camp in their garden. They built bathrooms with a small kitchen next to their house. Under the heavy rain, we needed a good coordination within the team to insure setting up the tents by avoiding to get the inside of tents wet as much as we can. Sheltered and warming up in the small kitchen, we shared the evening with other backpackers travelling as well on the “Carratera Austral”. Each one as his each own means of transport (by foot, bicycle, motorbike) and his own travel stories.

Adrian was exploring Patagonia with his bicycle and his girlfriend from Argentina to Puerto Montt. Both of them are physical education teachers in Argentina, they enjoyed the school holidays for travelling. We exchanged precious advice with some maté and Pisco. This moment was warming up our bodies and hearts.

Ricardo from la Nutria

After a day on the road, we were exhausted when we reached the small village of Puerto Rio Tranquilo. Small break, we bought a couple of things in the little market for dinner. We did the last 20 kilometres in the dust to reach the campsite recommended by other bikers. But 20 additional kilometres after a day like this one, it was like hell. But it was a little heaven waiting for us out there. Beret and a neat beard, Ricardo welcomed us warmly. 

After this hard day, it was not the end of our efforts as when we set up our tents, one of our tent pegs pierced the main water pipe for bathrooms which was dig a few centimetres deep in the soil. In a twist of fate, we became friends with Ricardo, with our hands in the soil trying to fix the leak of the pipe. 

As he needed to go to Puerto Rio Tranquilo for the evening, he offered us to share the following day our travel experiences during a “Pisco Party”. 

After a day spent on the Exploradores glacier, it’s with an inside fire and a bowl of popcorn that we met Eicardo at the dusk. Ricardo told us his experience, his advice and his secrets about Chilean Patagonia and Argentina. He did around 40 000 kilometres, on the Southern tracks on his old motocross bike KLR. We shared this moment with beers and pesto pasta before to taste the Pisco del Carmen.

When we woke up, we enjoyed the house speciality: the Churrasco. A generous meal before kayaking to visit the Capilla de Marmol. With his boina (Argentinian beret) still on the head, Ricardo was our guide. He told us legends about this lake and the geological formation of this unique place. 

Kayaks put on the beach, clothing drying on the front of the sidecars and the last hill climb up to go back on the Carratera Australe ; and our roads split. Ricardo were going back to La Nutria campsite while we were going back to Cochrane, still towards South…

Chilean experiences

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Apricots from Salamanca

There are some unexpected encounters that only travelling with sidecars can offer. Just a few kilometres before the Chilean city of Salamanca, we stopped at the National Reserve of Chinchilla, hoping that we will see one of those rodents. Sadly, those animals being very fearful and going out only at the end of the day, we didn’t have the opportunity to see one. Unlike a local, who was riding a van and followed us for a few kilometres. Intrigued by the sidecars, he stopped by us to chat. 

To go through the next step of our journey, he gave an apricot to each one of us. This little orange pearl has never been as juicy! Seeing our interest for this fruit, he showed us the content of his van: a mountain of fruits. It was not with a few apricots that we left, but with a full bag…

The tradition of the scarecrow of the Chilean New Year 

It was on the 31st of December and it was with Alex, around 8pm that our mechanical afternoon ended. We had a quick shower between two containers, in the half of a tank considered as the “mechanic shower”. We put a shirt for the opportunity. Then, we went to the neighbours to spend New Year’s Eve with them. We brought crepes with ham and cheese or chocolate cooked on our camping stove during the afternoon while working on the sidecars. We tried to cook them on a barbecue but we didn’t success. 

At midnight to wish the happy new year, we didn’t toast with a bubbly drink but we hugged each other and did warm “abrasos”. 

Then, we burned the man of misfortunes. Indeed, for this evening it’s a tradition in Chile, like in many other countries of South of America, to make a scarecrow and to dress him up with old clothes. A few minutes before midnight, we wrote on a piece of paper the things we would like to disappear in 2019. We slipped those words in the scarecrow. At midnight, we burned the man made of straw to leave all the negative things behind him and therefore to start a New Year on a good basis. 

The trolleybus of Valparaiso on the Avenida Colon

The different avenues located between the Valparaiso bay and the “Cerros” perched on the hills are a good playground for the trolleybus. The several cables helping the propulsion of the buses make a nice network web above the junctions. By following them, any travelers can go around in the colourful city, discovering the main squares (the Victoria square, the Sotomayor square…). After a generous meal and before to climb up the hills to visit the areas of the city, we decided to preserve our strengths and to go up the Avenida Colon by one of these trolleybuses built in another century. The majority of the vehicles of this network have been built between 1946 and 1952. Those vehicles are today the oldest trolleybuses still working in the world. 

When we climbed up the first steps, we jumped back sixty years ago. The cabin of the driver was welcoming (unlike the modern ones looking like a bunker), the holders covered of leather are fixed on the ceiling like Chinese lanterns and the seats were stuffed. When the doors opened, each traveler was looking the ones arriving in the bus before to look again this street going under the whells. We spent only a few minutes in this trolleybus but it was already with a bit of nostalgia when we stopped at the Plaza Victoria… 

The parilla of Santa Clara

At the end of the afternoon, after a nice day on the road, we looked for a wild camping spot. We passed the small village of Santa-Clara and took a track for a few kilometres to reach the Palpal river. When we arrived on site, there was a big party. Many families and young partiers came to enjoy the river for the evening and the night. We usually prefer quiet spots but we set up the camp along the bank of the river in spite of the buzzing atmosphere. 

After chatting a bit, the neighbours Tony and Gennaro invited us to a “parilla”. Happy of this offer, we accepted. They went in Tony’s 4×4 to pick up the meat. We have been surprised when they came back. They arrived with the fully equipped barbecue in their pickup truck. We thought we would meet them and their friends around a public barbecue. But it was actually only for us that Tony and Genarro brought this parilla. They prepared the nicest fire to keep an unforgettable memory of their village. The meat was delicious and accompanied with a Chilean pisco, which is according to Tony, proud of his country, “the best Pisco in the world, shared in the best village of the world, with the best company, in the world”. The following day, in spite of the specific indications, we didn’t find the biggest house of the village which should be Tony’s house who kindly invited us for the breakfast. 

Wearing crampons to walk on a glacier

Our day on the glacier of explorers began early in the morning when we have been picked up by our guide Maria-José at the Nutria campsite. Maria-José is quite small but full of energy and drives a big old Ford van. On the track, separating us from the first checkpoint, with the Deep Purple music, she was driving like a pilot making the back of the van slipping on each curve. This journey, she knows it perfectly and could do it without looking, like Michel Vaillant (reference to a F1 pilot in a French movie). 

Arrived at the first checkpoint, we needed  to take a little boat to cross a small lake. The lake was there since a few months due to the rupture of the rocks letting the water from the top of the mountains going through. This water has covered the road in the bottom of the mountains, making the guides building a boat to reach the point of departure of the excursion.

Once our bag with the equipment ready and the advice from Marie-José understood, we started this adventure. It began by walking alongside the river created by the glacier melting and we crossed a field full of rocks. Then, we did our first steps on the “field” of ice. The first kilometres have been done on a grey surface which is actually a glacier covered of a layer made of rock dust, sand and small rocks. This part is named the “dirty glacier”, which is before the “white glacier”. 

After walking during an hour and a break, we put our gaiters and crampons. The first steps were quite hard. The feeling would be the same as walking for the first time with heels. We didn’t have any other choices than learning again how to walk to move safely and without any risks on the glacier. Maria-José gave us precious advice. First on a flat surface, before to learn how to climb up and down without  going too fast due to the slope. The secret is to not hesitate to walk with strength, you can even exaggerate a bit. Knowing how to walk on the different profiles of ice is a mandatory condition to go exploring the glacier. The field of ice was going over 4200 km2. There were small puddles with a water of an intense blue colour. We followed the dynamism of Maria-José taking us from a mirador to a waterfall, from an arch to a tunnel, with a fast move to make sure we will see as much as possible of this white treasure. Only issue, we sacrificed one pair of sunglasses in the turquoise water of a crevasse to be able to try the pleasure of being a glacier explorer for one day. 

Getting jam as a gift on a ferry 

A few kilometres before Villa O’Higgins, it was 10am when we arrived in front of the pier of the ferry crossing the Rio Bravo. Some cars and trucks were already on board. The motorbikes were the last ones to go. We parked the side-cars in front of a big construction truck. As we didn’t have the time for breakfast to make sure we will have the first ferry, we brought butter, bread and orange juice. Juan was looking at us from his truck. Intrigued, he came to chat a bit. A few minutes later, he left and came back with a thermos full of coffee and a pot of plum jam made by his wife. On the deck of the ferry, it was finally a great breakfast. An unforgettable experience warming our hearts of travelers. 

Chilean Night Spots

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“Islote Blanco” Beach

A few kilometres after Antofagasta, we left the monotonous Ruta 5 to reach the road along the coast with the aim to camp by the sea.

After fighting against the strong wind during an hour on the coastal road, we set up the camp a few kilometres away from the small city of Taltal. We opted for a small beach protected from the wind thanks to a few rocks. The side-cars are parked on the sand, the mattresses are inflated for the night, the camping stove is out to cook the pasta with the asparagus soup. We enjoyed the last sunrays before a night cadenced by the lapping of the waves.

When we woke up, we opted for a coffee in the small city of Taltal. The address was nice but the croissant was not what we expected. It tempted us on the menu but finally it was disappointing by its tiny size and its taste. Finally, we learned this pastry, translated as “croissant”, is actually “media-luna” which are a small pastry covered of icing sugar and eaten at any time of the day by Chilean people.

The mines nearby Vallenar

Once crossed the Vellanar city, we continued by going towards South on the Ruta 5. This highway is made of asphalt and delimited by fences. It was hard for us to find a wild camping spot in these conditions. Finally, the iOverlander app helped us again to find a camping spot. In the middle of the desert, we set up our tents on the field of a mine, still in operation.

The sunset over the sand dunes was amazing. During the diner, a “zorro” (animal looking like a sand fox) came to visit us. With almost no light pollution, the Atacama desert is famous for being the best spot to observe stars. Indeed, most of the biggest telescopes in the world have been placed in the area. Here, we were a few hundreds of kilometres from this strategic spot ; but still in a desert with no light pollution and offering a beautiful starry sky. We contemplated them with smooth music notes by Ludovico Einaudi in the background.

The Pullinque Lake

The 7 lakes area required probably more than a day to visit due to the beautiful wild camping night we had by the Pullinque lake. Thirty kilometres before Puerto Montt, we left the highway to head to Panguipulli. This small city, which wooden houses reminding us the villages in the French Alps, symbolised our entry in the area of the 7 lakes. We went alongside the lake of Panguipulli. The road was slightly slippery after the shower of the afternoon and there was a light smell of the humid forest. On the right hand side, the grey clouds were going away to let the sunshine reflecting over the blue water of the lake.

Arrived on the bank of the next lake, we looked for a perfect spot to set up the tents. Here again, we explored the area through small paths. After a curve, we passed by a football playground where two local teams were playing against each other on the rough grass. When we passed by, the players stopped to watch the ball, distracted by our vehicles. Finally, it was at the end of a path that we found our spot to camp. In the background of our camp, a lake with a turquoise colour and the mountains of the Andes. Upon our arrival, a family was leaving the small beach. But before to do so, they proudly offered their embers for using them as our camp fire. On the program, swimming in the fresh water of the lake, fishing with our axe and popcorn.

Along the Rio Negro in Hornopirén

Mid-afternoon, we arrived in the small village of Hornopiren. We bought our ferry tickets to reach Chaiten the following day. We looked for a wild camping spot for the night.

After crossing the small city, used a bridge spanning the river and we turned immediately on the right in a small path going along a stream. Before the Noire river flowed into the Comau fjord, small clearings, surrounded by trees, offered nice hidden spaces protected from the wind to set up the tents. It was 5pm and we never set up a tent so early. We collected wood for the campfire, put the beer to cool down in the river and tried to swim a bit in spite of the fresh temperature. Hopefully, when we went out of the water, the sunshine and the small campfire helped us to warm up. For diner, we cooked our favourite dish on our camping stove: spinach ravioli. This first wild camping night in Patagonia was, indeed, a bit chilly, but quite.

The Cochrane Lake

After a day on the Carratera Austral to go back from Villa O’Higgins to Cochrane, we ended the day by a path of 16 kilometers to reach the Cochrane lake. We were going up the hills and then going down steep hills with nice curves. We knew the return will be hard the following day but the beautiful view was worth it.

Just a few metres before the lake, we were face to face with a big bull. We estimated his weight of almost one ton. Scared by the engine noise, he looked terrified with a bit of slobber. We stopped the engines and waited patiently that he got used to our presence. After ten minutes spent behind a bush, the bull passed by the side-cars and went away. Without a second thought, we went on our vehicles and passed the curve to reach the beach.

Glorious surroundings, diving from the pontoon in a clear water at the dusk, after a traditional mechanical time due to the day on the tracks. Diner with our camping stove with a curry rice and chorizo, changing from the usual pasta.

We woke up with a drizzle making us folding our tents still humid. In spite of this inconvenience, we enjoyed a beautiful rainbow over the lake.

Chilean Patagonia by the Carretera Austral – 10 days – 147 metres above sea level

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On the 10th of January 2019, we did our first kilometres on the Carratera 7 also named Carratera Austral. The view was already breathtaking: we crossed between La Caleta La Arena and La Caleta Puelche with a small boat, the road was going alongside the Seno Reloncavi (more well-known as the Golfe de Puerto Montt) with the first summits covered of snow.

There were some roadworks on the way, letting us to ride our first kilometres of unpaved tracks in Patagonia to reach the small village of Hornopiren. In the fishermen village, the houses are nice wooden chalets, it is also the point of departure for the ferries to go to Chaitén. Indeed, the road stops here and it was by boat that we reached the Southern part of the Carratera 7.

Arrived in the village, we booked our tickets at the pier for crossing the next day in the morning. Tickets booked, we crossed a small bridge spanning the river and we followed the track going along to reach a small clearing where we set up our camp.

The next day, once the tents folded, we waited in the queue to boardon the ferry. After boarding, we waited as the boat departure has been delayed of an hour and half.

During the crossing, it was raining but nothing would stop the beauty of the scenery. The ferry crossed the fjord before to berth on a piece of land with a 10-kilometre length. We rode in the rain before to go back on a new ferry to reach the next part of the Carratera Austral. After 50 kilometres of tracks, here named “ripio”, with a heavy rain, we arrived in Chaitén, a small fishermen village. We set up the camp under the rain, before to share the evening in the small kitchen of the campsite with six other backpackers traveling in Patagonia by foot or bicycle.

We kept going for the following days on the Carratera 7. The beautiful scenery does not stop: snowy summits, rivers with nice bridges and lakes. We went alongside the Rio Trio and then Rio Palena during many kilometres. Arrived in Puyuhuapi, we set up the tents in the campsite located at the bottom of the fjord. We allowed us a drink on the pontoon before to dine with four Chilean adventurers who are going to Ushuaïa by hitchhiking.

On the way to the National Park of Queulat, there wereone carstopped on the side of the road. In the fjord, just a few metres away, there were two dolphins hunting fish. Arrived at the entry of the park, we put our hiking shoes for a small hike of 6 kilometres. After a rope bridge and a little hill up to the mirador, the Glacier Queulat was waiting us. Perched on the cliff, the ice melting is making an impressive waterfall flowing into the river we crossed previously.

To reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo, this part of the Carratera is an uneven surface full of holes. Sidecars and riders suffered. We spent the night at La Nutria campsite. We have been warmly welcomed by Ricardo and his family. The Puerto Rio Tranquilo village is a holidays destination and great to go on an adventure on the glacier of the explorers or to go kayaking around the cathedral of marble. The place to rent them is actually just a few kilometres away from the village. To go there, the path offers an amazing view over the General Carrera lake before to go down to the beach through a steep slope. On the water, the surroundings are amazing, as much by the shapes created by the erosion of the rock, as the colour nuances of the marble with blue, grey and green.

On the advice of Ricardo, we left the Carretera Austral around the small vilage of El Manzano, to cross the Rio Baker through a nice little wooden bridge.

We saw again this little river before Cochrane. This time, we crossed through a small boat pulled by a cable. After a wild camping night on the heights of the isolated city, we drank our first maté for the breakfast. The previous day, we bought some at the supermarket plus the specific straw named “bombilla” to enjoy this traditional drink. We followed precisely all the advice given by a campsite manager met previously. His two secrets: the choice of the herb which shouldn’t be cut too small and the temperature of the water which should be hot but not boiling. It is forbidden of mixing the herb with the straw, and if possible it is better to use a clay recipient (but for us our camping tin mug will do the job).

Wind and dust were with us on the track to reach Torter. During the last 10 kilometres, Emilie noticed a crack on the mudguard of our side-car. Same remark on Julien and Marie’ side-car. We reached Tortel with difficulties and tried to find a welder to repair the damages. A grandad, owner of a supermarket in the main square of the village, was intrigued by the side-cars. He gave us the contact details of Fabian, a mecanich who has a old welding machine. Doing his best, he did a few welding points on the cracks. A provisional repair, hoping it will last a few days before to find a better welding machine. After putting back the mudguards on the wheels of our sidecars, we discovered the charming village of Tortel. Usually made of beaten earth in the area, the streets are here made of wooden walkways on stilts. All the vehicles must park at the entry of the village. The firemen truck is replaced by a small boat. The life of the village is organized around these walkways. It was 8:30pm when the sun was going down over the fjord. After a beer in the handcrafted brewery of the village, we went back in our tents set up on a little pontoon in the village.

Early in the morning, we left Tortel to take a little boat crossing the Rio Bravo towards Villa O’Higgins. The repairs done the previous day, didn’t last after the first kilometres. Once landed, we removed the mudguards and attached them on the boot of the sidecar to avoid further damages. At the beginning of the afternoon, we arrived at the pier of Bahia Bombadorez symbolising the end of the Carratera Austral. As an award for this achievement, we enjoyed empanadas with salmon and cheese.

After going back on the same track to Cochrane, we spent a last night on the Carratera Austral. In the morning, we headed to Argentina by crossing the Patagonia park. A nice relief looking like the landscape described by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings. In the fields, vicunas are drinking in the small stream. In the background, there was the small border post of the Chilean « Carabineros » announcing the end of our adventure on the Pacific Coast…

where to sleep?

Camping La Nutria
Valle exploradores, km 20, Puerto Rio Tranquilo

Indeed, after the village of Puerto Rio Tranquillo you will need to go through 20 kilometres of paths, but the place is worth it. You will be warmly welcomed by Ricardo and his family. The campsite has a nice green field with some shadows, private bathrooms and a shared open space with a table and a fireplace for all the travelers. In the morning, do not miss the coffee-churasco at the breakfast before to start the sport activities suggested in the area (kayaking, hiking on the glacier)

Camping Los Pioneros
50 Camino Cementerio, Villa O’Higgins

Small campsite with nothing fancy, between trees, at the end of the Carratera Austral. To warm up after a day on the tracks, there is nothing better than a matéin the communalroomof the chalet, in front of the small wood-burner.

Where to have a drink?

Cerveceria El Mirador

A warming atmosphere with a beautiful view over the Tortel bay and a very good craft beer served by a passionatestaff. The cradft brewery of the Mirador has all the assets to seduce you!

From San Pedro de Atacama to Puerto Montt – 22 days – 2408 metres above sea level

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We entered in Chile by the north of the country. Passing by the Volcano Licancabur, symbolising the Bolivian border, we did our first kilometres in Chile at the sunset time. We are surrounded by mountains, lakes and a salt desert. The wind was already blowing, plus with the fresh temperatures at the dusk, we were looking forward to being in our sleeping bags to warm up.

We spent the night in a campsite alongside the Loa river. For our first Chilean day, we reached the village of San Pedro de Atacama, located in the middle of the desert of the same name.

This desert is famous for being one of the most arid in the world. Indeed, it has not been clement with us, this is the least we can say. During our trip, we needed to face strong wind gusts blowing the sand in the tents and in each corner of our belongings. A stifling heat didn’t help as well. It was not easy to get use to the 45°C, the experienced temperature, to discover the area. 

We rode with our sidecars in the Moon Valley. Located at one of the extremities of the desert, the valley has the shape of a long canyon between the cliffs. Below one of them, we visited a cavern with salt crystals on the walls. The salt of the Atacama Salar is coming from a volcanic ground of the surrounded area. A few kilometres further, we summoned up our courage to climb the highest dune of this desert in a blazing heat.

Before to go back to the campsite, we explored the archeological site of Pukara de Quitor. According to us, the only true highlight of the site is the view over the desert. We returned to the village to get some fresh air in the shadow of the streets. San Pedro de Atacama has many nice little streets with beaten earth, surrounded by walls of small houses made of cob. There is a special ambiance, between tourism and spirituality which is impossible for travellers to feel indifferent about it. 

After changing the oil, we dismantled our camp and headed to the Pacific Coast. We arrived a few hundreds of kilometers further the seaside city of Antofagasta. With a Californian atmosphere, this city is overlooking the ocean. Located in the middle of the city centre, the port is the economic heart and soul of the city with many colourful containers waiting. For us, that will be our stop for Christmas… we will celebrate with the wind in the air enjoying the fresh sea air after the heat of the desert.

For the pleasure of our taste buds, we cooked some recipes with the ingredient we missed the most: cheese! We found many varieties in the main shopping center of the corner. Indeed, Chile being considered by its South-American neighbours as the United States of the South of America, offered us the opportunity to find many imported products. Cheeses, baguettes and other ingredients to cook nice dishes for the celebrations and satisfy our lack of French dishes…

Our stomachs being full, we went back on our sidecars and headed South. La Ruta 5 is crossing the desert with straight and monotonous lines. In the middle of the dunes and rocks, we saw the Mano del Desierto, a sculpture made precisely in a rock by the Chilean Mario Irarrázabal in 1992. From its height of 11 metres, we had some shadow and a good wind protection for our lunch break. But, above all, we would need a push from this hand to leave this sandy field as quickly as possible.

We left the Ruta 5 to go alongside the Pacific Ocean. We were happy to have some fresh sea air by the small village of Paposo. 

With the wind, always with us, a little foam was  formed over the ocean. The coast is deserted, we didn’t see anyone before our arrival in the small seaside city of Talgar, except a couple of houses made randomly and selling a few things. 

We continued to go down towards South and we reached “Bahia Inglesa”, a nice beach in a bay with white sand and clear waters. After a night in the middle of a handmade olive grove, we continued our road alongside the coast. Paths replaced the asphalt, the area was again deserted, the coastline was rocky with no sign of urbanisation ; except Carrizal Bajo, a small village of fishermen. After many hours of riding, we arrived in the valley of the centenary olive trees which follow the Huasco river and ends in a port of the same name. We walked on the seawall, impressed by the hard workout of two young kayakers and then intrigued by two brown shapes floating underneath the pier. It was actually two sea lions rocked by the rhythm of the waves. 

We left the coastline in Huasco to go meeting Alexander, the only importer of Ural sidecars in South of America. The desert and the coast have been replaced by nice hills where grow olive trees and grapes. After some curves and a night on the Cogoti lake, we reached Salamanca. A few kilometres further, after following a path and crossed a ford, we arrived at the house of our host. We spent three days, between mechanics days and New Year’s Eve. Working on the sidecars with hands full of grease, but finally dancing with te sound of the guitar of Paco de Lucia. After these three days, we went towards Valparaiso accompanied by Alexander.

With him, no highway roads, he knows the area perfectly. We went by side roads and through old tunnels built by French architects before to go alongside the coast to reach the second biggest city of the country. 

We arrived to the city by the Avenida Argentina before to follow the sea front to reach the Carvallo tip and climb the hills of Carro de la Playa Ancha where the Villa Kunterbundt is perched, the hostel where we stayed. At the end of the afternoon, we went back on our sidecars and followed Alex to the moto club of Valparaiso where we have been invited for the evening. This is actually the oldest moto club in the world!

The next day we discovered the city by foot. We passed by the Plaza Sotomayor and the Plaza Victoria before to go the other side of the Avenida de la Independancia to combine tourism with mechanics. The aim was to find a new battery for the sidecar of Marie and Julien, with the hope to resolve the starting issues. Part that we will find behind a covered market in the “mechanics street”, with the help of Alex. We named it as such as, often from our arrival in South of America, the shops specialised in mechanics are gathered in a same street. Therefore, it was with a new battery that we opened the doors of the O’Higgins restaurant. A typical restaurant in Valparaiso where we shared a board of meat grilled on a plancha (South-American barbecue) for the lunch. 

Once our stomachs full, we used the trolleybus to go up the Avenida de la Independancia. Then, we climbed up the heights of the city by foot, the lift being out of order. The small and steep streets are very colourful. We reached the Cerro Florida area where we visited the house of Pablo Neruda, writer and poet. His house, with an unusual architecture, is overlooking the port and its dynamism, his source of inspiration. We went back to the hostel, by the hills. Stairs going up and down, ones after other ones. Upon our arrival, the “parilla” was on. We spent the evening around a barbecue between beers and grilled meat.

Leaving “Valpo” behind us, we went alongside the Pacific Coast by nice and small roads. Around the Rapel city, unfortunately it was a sad show offered to us. There was a fire spreading over the surrounded mounts. The helicopters were going back and forth, between the mountains and the “rio”.

Many curves on this small coastal road, until the surfing spot of Pichilemu. But it was finally a few kilometres further, nearby the salt manufacturing of Cahill that we spent the evening. By continuing our trip towards South, we met the riders of Chillán and discovered the local food speciality before to stop in Santa Clara where, this time Tonio invited us to share a “parilla”.  The next day we set up a last time the tent in the 7 lakes area on the side of the Pullingue lake before to arrive in Puerto Montt.

This city marks the entry gate of the Chilean Patagonia. It was our base to prepare our adventure in Patagonia. We did a break for a few days to check the sidecars in the aim of going down the Carratera Australe, famous for challenging the vehicles using it. It was after changing the swinging arm of the sidecar of Julien and Marie, plus changed the oil on both sidecars that we opened the gates of Patagonia…

Where to eat?

Restaurant O’Higgins
Victoria 2788, Valparaíso

A traditional place with small wooden rooms to enjoy the local specialities. Under the eye of Colonel O’Higgins, considered as one of the fathers of the Chilean motherland, famous figure of the independence of Chile.

Cafeteria La Fama
Bernardo O’Higgins 324, Panguipulli

A good address for the breakfast. You can enjoy a delicious espresso and a nice slice of pie made of “panqueque”, the local pancake. Like the rest of the village, the wooden architecture is giving a style of a shop in a mountain village.

Where to sleep? 

Villa Kunterbundt
Vista Hermosa 394, Valparaíso

Perched on the heights of the hill of Cerro Playa Ancha, above the port, the hostel is hold by Martina and her husband welcoming riders-travelers from all over the world. The house is a nice mess but very welcoming. The common areas are nice and well designed for sharing. We shared with the other riders the itinerary advice, from each experience, between the ones going North and the ones going South.

Martina is also able to import 2-wheel vehicles in Chile and to help riders for the paperwork.